Washington has won four of their last five games with three starting pitchers (Zimmermann, Haren, Gonzalez) recording curly Ws. The Nats will now host the Detroit Tigers with a day of rest on each end of the two-game series. The rest comes much needed and deserved, as they have played 17 straight games in as many days.
Streaky has been the term to describe the 2013 Washington Nationals. Only into early May, they have three three-game winning and three three-game losing streaks. It’s night and day with these Nationals so far this season: at times, you can’t help but think this team will make a deep playoff run and at others you wonder how this team had so much hype coming into the season. With high expectations comes high scrutiny. They sit just two games above .500 (but only two games back of the Braves) thanks in large part to an underperforming offense that ranks just 24th in runs scored.
Granted we are just five days into the month, but May has started the way the Nationals had hoped, recording only one loss this month. Washington will face the first-placed AL Central Detroit Tigers on Tuesday and Wednesday and then host the Chicago Cubs for a three-game weekend series that starts Friday. Great baseball is ahead in the next five games. The Detroit series will be a great test for the Nats as they face two pitchers off to hot starts: Anibal Sanchez (3-2, 1.82 ERA) and Doug Fister (4-0, 2.48 ERA) and face one of the hottest offenses in baseball. Detroit is second in runs scored and batting average and owns sole possession of on base percentage (.352). The Nats will throw Zimmermann (5-1, 1.64 ERA) and Haren (3-3, 5.01 ERA) against Sanchez and Fister, respectively.
Zimmermann has been consistent for the Nationals this year, eating up innings and recording wins. He has two complete game wins under his belt already, including a one-hit, 1-0, win against the Reds on April 26th. For the most part, he’s getting the run support he lacked last year as he recorded just 12 wins, despite a 2.94 ERA, in all of 2012. Haren struggled early in the season but looks to feed off some confidence he gained from his previous two starts against Cincinnati and Atlanta in which he recorded two wins and allowed a total of 3 earned runs over 14 innings. It will be a nice early season test for what some have predicted as the eventual World Series match-up.
Washington gets a break over the weekend when they face the Cubs, one of the worst teams in baseball. We have an interesting match-up on Saturday when former National, Edwin Jackson, and current struggling ace, Stephen Strasburg, will be on the bump. Jackson has yet to record a win for the Cubs and has a dismal 6.39 ERA. Look for Strasburg to try and settle down and find the command he’s been lacking this year against a sub-par team and pitcher. If there’s ever a time to figure things out for the young star, this Saturday is it.
Washington will look to gain some ground on Atlanta over the next week as the Braves have a tough road ahead. They will face the second-placed NL Central Reds in a three-game away series starting today. Thursday they travel to first-placed NL West, San Francisco for a four-game road series that will end on Sunday.
If Washington can win one of two games against the Tigers and two of three against the Cubs, they will be in prime position to come within reach, or perhaps surpass, the division-leading Braves. Fingers-crossed!